King County water taxi MV Doc Maynard is dedicated on September 18, 2015.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 11/05/2015
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11139

On September 18, 2015, the MV Doc Maynard is dedicated at Pier 50 in Seattle. The vessel is one of two new water taxis built for King County by All American Marine in Bellingham. The MV Doc Maynard is intended for use between West Seattle and downtown Seattle, and can reach speeds up to 28 knots. It is expected to carry more than 300,000 passengers during its first year of service.

Crossing the Bay

Regularly scheduled ferry service between West Seattle and downtown Seattle began in 1888, when the City of Seattle carried its first passengers across Elliott Bay. The boat operated until 1913, by which time bridges had been built across the Duwamish River facilitating access to and from West Seattle.

By the end of the twentieth century West Seattle's population had grown and, although newer and larger bridges were built, traffic had become more congested. In 1997, King County Metro instituted water-taxi service to and from West Seattle during the summer months. The water taxi was particularly enjoyed by West Seattle baseball fans wishing to see Seattle Mariners games.

Due to a lack of money the service was suspended in 2000. But because the state transportation budget was slashed leading to a reduction in Metro bus service, West Seattle commuters immediately began clamoring to get their ferry service back.

King County Councilman Greg Nickels (b. 1955) -- a West Seattle resident -- heard their call and pushed for the water-taxi relaunch. In 2001 King County and Sound Transit agreed to pay approximately $650,000 of the service's costs, and the Elliott Bay Water Taxi began ferrying travelers once again between West Seattle and Pier 54 on downtown's central waterfront.

Leased Vessels

The Metropolitan King County Council created the King County Ferry District (KCFD) in 2007, and it began contracted service in 2008. The following year, the KCFD added a water-taxi route to Vashon Island after Washington State Ferries discontinued a passenger-only route from the island to downtown Seattle. The MV Melissa Ann, a leased vessel, began serving as the Vashon Island water taxi.

Also in 2009, work began on an upgraded water-taxi dock at West Seattle's Seacrest Pier and a relocated dock in downtown Seattle. When they opened in 2010, the MV Rachael Marie, another leased vessel, went into service on the West Seattle route. And because ridership had increased so much, the water taxi began carrying commuters year-round.

By 2012, ridership was up 40 percent compared to 2009. That summer King County Councilman and KCFD board chair Joe McDermott announced that federal grant money had become available to help fund the construction of two new boats, one for each ferry run. The cost of the boats was estimated to be between $10 million and $13 million, of which federal funds would cover 80 percent.

While plans and proposals were underway to build the new boats, the ferry district received a third boat practically for free. Passenger-ferry service between Kingston and Seattle had been discontinued, which left the MV Spirit of Kingston up for grabs. Rather than pay back $2 million in federal grant money used for its construction, the Port of Kingston was able to transfer ownership of the 7-year-old vessel to the KCFD for use as a backup vessel.

Sally Fox and Doc Maynard

In December 2013 the KCFD announced that All American Marine, based in Bellingham, was chosen to build the two new water taxis at a cost of $11.8 million. The two vessels would each be able to carry up to 278 passengers, almost 100 more than could be carried by the Rachael Marie or Melissa Ann. They would also be faster, have larger doors for quicker loading, and would include more space for bicycles.

Soon after construction began in April 2014, the KCFD invited King County residents to help name the new vessels. Dozens of names were submitted and 11 made the final cut -- six for West Seattle, five for Vashon. Members of the public were then asked to vote for their favorites. The Vashon Water Taxi would be named MV Sally Fox, after a well-loved community activist who advocated for Vashon Island passenger-ferry service before her death in 2007. The West Seattle Water Taxi would be named MV Doc Maynard.

David S. "Doc" Maynard (1808-1873) was Seattle's first physician, as well as the city's first merchant, first justice of the peace, first Indian agent, first blacksmith, first advertiser to use the name "Seattle" in print, and first economic-development booster, donating land for Henry Yesler's sawmill in 1852. Maynard originally settled at Alki Point, then moved to his property in what is now Pioneer Square before moving back to Alki Point. In a sense, this made him one of the earliest commuters on the future West Seattle ferry run.

Delivery and Sea Trials

On January 1, 2015, the King County Ferry District was assumed by King County, and the King County Department of Transportation's Marine Division continued to operate the Water Taxi service. The MV Sally Fox was delivered to Seattle in March 2015 and after two weeks of sea trials was dedicated on March 28.

Six months later the MV Doc Maynard arrived in Seattle for its sea trials. During this time, members of the Doc Maynard Chapter 54-40, E Clampus Vitus -- including two ex-Nobel Grand Humbugs -- were invited to tour the vessel while it was at dock. During the naming contest the previous year, local Clampers had been strong advocates for designating the vessel after their "Clampatriarch."

Dedication Day

On September 18, 2015, nearly 100 people -- most of them West Seattleites -- attended a dedication ceremony for the MV Doc Maynard at Pier 50 in Seattle. Emcee Harold S. Tanigucho, Director of the King County Department of Transportation, welcomed everyone to the event and introduced each of the speakers.

King County Executive Dow Constantine (b. 1961) spoke first, recalling his days as a county councilmember when he chaired the King County Ferry District. Next up was Rick Krochalis, Federal Transit Administration Region 10 Administrator, who noted that both new water taxis used homegrown biodiesel, reducing both the amount of particulate matter released into the air and carbon dioxide emissions.

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott drew on his past experience as a tour guide for the Seattle Underground Tour and gave a rousing history of Doc Maynard's role in the development of Seattle. Greg Nickels was introduced next as the "father of the Water Taxi" for championing passenger-ferry service during his tenures as a King County councilmember and as mayor of Seattle. Paul Brodeur, Director of the King County Marine Division, spoke last and shared some fascinating facts about the boat's capabilities.

Krochalis, Constantine, Nickels, and McDermott then boarded the vessel and walked to the front deck. As the audience looked on, the four men each grabbed a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne and lined up over the ceremonial banner that was hung above the vessel's name. On cue, they shattered the bottles to great applause and christened the vessel.

Those in attendance were invited on board for a test run out into Elliott Bay. On September 29, 2015, the Doc Maynard went into temporary service on the Vashon run, while scheduled warranty service was performed on the Sally Fox. The Doc Maynard was expected to enter its regularly scheduled West Seattle run by the end of 2015.

Sources: "West Seattle Water Taxi Enjoys Wave of Popularity -- Traffic-Beating Service to End After Labor Day," The Seattle Times, August 31, 1999, p. B-3; "Water Taxi's Return Brings Smiles, Relief," The Seattle Times, May 27, 2001, p. B-1; "King County Water Taxi," King County Department of Transportation website accessed October 20, 2015 (http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/WaterTaxi); "King County Water Taxi," West Seattle Blog accessed October 20, 2015 (http://westseattleblog.com/category/king-county-water-taxi/); eyewitness account of dedication ceremony by Alan Stein.

Related Topics:   Maritime

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